Editor’s note: This game was moved to Ford Field, in Detroit, Michigan, due to weather conditions in Buffalo.
Top sportsbooks have released their NFL odds for this week’s contest between the Browns and Bills.
Cleveland is coming off a blowout loss to Miami, but that was a different matchup. Just because they were non-competitive last week doesn’t mean they will be again this week. Indeed, while they tend to lose, their losses also tend to be close.
They’ll look to keep pace with a Buffalo team that itself has entered a losing streak. Since their loss to Minnesota, it is now a fact that, for the first time all year, the Bills have lost multiple games in a row. Although, their last two losses occurred by only three points.
For the above reasons, you should play the spread for this game at one of our best sportsbooks.
Cleveland Browns vs. Buffalo Bills
Sunday, November 20, 2022 – 01:00 PM EST at Ford Field
Cleveland's Defensive Weakness
It's meaningful to know how teams most successfully attack the Browns' defense. Their success is made possible by the personnel-related weakness of Cleveland's defense.
When the Browns lost Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi, the interior of their defensive line never recovered for quality. They've tried to replace them with a bunch of mid-round picks or desperation free agent grabs, but to no avail.
As a result, especially their defensive line and their team as a whole struggle to stop opposing running backs.
Cleveland's Worst Defensive Games
Given their defensive weakness, Cleveland's worst performances on defense came against teams with strong running backs.
For example, they allowed 30 points and 465 yards to the Chargers. In that game, Cleveland permitted Chargers' running back Austin Ekeler to amass 173 rushing yards on 16 carries.
Most recently, the Browns allowed Miami to achieve a season-high 39 points. Jeff Wilson, for Miami, ran for 119 yards on 17 carries.
While both Miami and the Chargers enjoy good quarterback play, neither quarterback is responsible for his team's strong offensive performance against the Browns. For the Chargers, Justin Herbert passed for a relatively modest 228 yards while Miami's offense was sustained primarily by the efficiency and solid productivity of its running back group.
How Buffalo Compares
I like the Browns' defense because Buffalo's offense does not resemble the Chargers and Dolphins in terms of having strong running backs.
In fact, Buffalo's running back group is arguably the weakest part of its roster. The Bills tried to address this weakness by drafting running back James Cook in the second round.
This weakness was already obvious given the meager performances of Devin Singletary and Zack Moss. Neither running back is likely to be efficient, in terms of yards per carry, in a given game.
Hence, Buffalo relies primarily on its quarterback to pose a threat on the ground. Quarterback Josh Allen is, by far, his team's leading rusher.
Stopping Mobile Quarterbacks
We established that Cleveland struggles against good running backs. But quarterbacks are completely different. Stopping them does not simply require a defensive interior that effectively sheds tackles and otherwise achieves penetration against the opposing offensive line.
The Browns are strong outside of their interior. They boast, for example, two excellent defensive ends in Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney, two All-Pro selections in previous seasons.
Because they get to depend on positions besides defensive tackle to stop opposing mobile quarterbacks, they can succeed in this aspect of run defense.
Browns Against Mobile Quarterbacks
So, how do the Browns fare against mobile quarterbacks? They already faced one team that has its quarterback serve as its leading rusher. This team was Baltimore, and the Ravens edged out Cleveland 23-20.
In that game, quarterback Lamar Jackson's rushing total was a modest 59, and his YPC in that game remained below his season average in YPC. Cleveland also faced Atlanta with the mobile Marcus Mariota. Mariota, in that game, mustered season lows in rushing yards and YPC.
Given their performance against Baltimore's Jackson and Atlanta's Mariota, the Browns look like solid candidates against mobile quarterbacks. They will limit Buffalo's rush attack, leaving Buffalo to contend with the strength of their defense, which is their pass defense.
Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow are higher-profile quarterbacks whom Cleveland limited to modest or bad performances. Most recently, Miami's superb wide receiver duo did little against the Browns' secondary.
What We Need from Cleveland's Offense
Given the outlook of Cleveland's defense and because the spread is as high as it is, we don't need much from Cleveland's offense in order to win the bet that I am recommending, a play on the Browns to cover the spread.
The Browns average a 10th-best 24.1 points per game. Scoring that many points would likely suffice for a win, and anything close to 24 points would easily suffice for a cover.
In order to accomplish at least a cover, Cleveland will especially need its best offensive players to thrive. Cleveland relies especially on running the ball. The Browns rank seventh in run-play percentage.
Bills Against Running Backs
With the third-most yards out of any running back so far, Nick Chubb spearheads the Browns' offense. Buffalo's defensive success will hinge on its ability to limit Chubb's output.
However, the Bills repeatedly struggle to contain strong running backs. Most recently, the Jets' backup running back, Green Bay's starting running back, and Minnesota's starting running back all accomplished well more than six YPC against the Bills' defense.
Nick Chubb looks primed to prolong this tendency and so to do what Cleveland does best on offense.
With your NFL picks in mind, expect Buffalo to fail to hurt the Browns' defense where it is vulnerable while the Cleveland offense is able to lean on Chubb.
For the above reasons, take the points with Cleveland.
*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.